Did that Really Happen? 11 Tech Trends of the 90s

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Kevin McAllister from home alone holding a talkboy home alone
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Last Updated on November 10, 2021

The 1990s was a time when technology was revving up its engine, but wasn’t quite there yet. There were some really cool gadgets and some strange inventions that no one could quite figure out.

From video game graphics to techno animals, the decade had it all. We reveal our favourite 11 best tech trends of the 90s.

1. Beepers

Different color tamagotchis

If you had a pager, you were basically Ferris Bueller on steroids. A beeper meant you were a very important person. You needed to be reached wherever you were. The only problem was you got that all-important page and had to find a phone to call the person back.

It was usually just your mom wanting to know when you were coming home for dinner. In today’s world, the kindergartner is checking their smartphone for the newest game alert and waiting for their mom’s special text tone.

2. Furbies

three furbies, a blue, green and white furbie

These little furry creatures were creepy and cool at the same time. They spoke “Furbish” which was really nothing. They interacted with people and with other Furbies. Kids spent hours teaching their little friends how to do things.

Their brains weren’t as developed as real pets, but these things made us feel pretty special. The only crazy thing about them is when they would start talking in the middle of the night on a shelf. These tech toys were so popular that retailers ran out quickly. Don’t worry, the Furby is back on the shelves now for a whole new generation.

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3. Talkboy

Kevin McAllister from home alone holding a talkboy home alone

The TalkBoy was one of the best parts of “Home Alone 2” when Kevin McAllister used it. Everyone had to have one after this movie. This chunky piece of technology was the best video cassette player not the planet. You could record and play back your voice. It was like a video camera and cassette player all rolled into one thing.

In today’s world everyone would laugh at this contraption. We have cell phones that let us play music, record our voices and video all at the same time. At that time, it was the perfect symbol for all of the 1990s technology.

4. Tamagotchi

pink 90s tamagotchi

Everyone needed a Tamagotchi. Why get a real pet when you had this sleek little guy? If you didn’t treat him right, he would die. This little pixelated dude was called a Tamagotchi. They taught little kids that if you didn’t care for your pets, they were gone.

It was a hassle, but so much fun. They were like little gremlin video games. You could take them with you wherever you went. These things keep trying to make a comeback. Everyone thinks they still need an electronic monster in their pocket.

Read: Why the Digital Pet Craze Never Really Died

5. 1998 iMac

apple imac release 1998 with steve jobs

The iMac of the late 1990s was the best looking thing on a desk. The bright colored computers took up most of your desk. These 90s computers were slow as Christmas, didn’t have neat graphics and buzzed loudly. They were perfect for the time though.

Everyone waited patiently as these machines whirred their way to the Internet so you could check your important e-mail forwards. Of course, nowadays computers are much smaller and much faster. You don’t see as many cool, bright colors of computers like this iMac though. This color fad should come back.

Read: 28 Reasons Why a 90s Christmas Was Way Better Than Any Other

6. Headphones

Old school retro headphones with the soft ear pads

You probably miss the tangled mess of headphones that you stuck in your CD player. The black felt covers came with each piece of headphones. It was a chore to listen to your music most of the time. They didn’t have tiny airbuds or noise-cancelling headphones.

You didn’t have to worry about running out of battery or spending too much on these headphones. You also spent hours trying to figure out the wires before you could even plug them into your electronics.

7. Palm Pilots

Man holding a Palm Pilot

The Palm Pilot in your hand meant you were an important business person. This was one of the first handheld devices to change the game of technology. This Palm Pilot helped people organize news in their life in a digital way. You even had a fancy little stylus to guide you through each step.

The first Palm Pilots only had a few hundred kilobytes of memory. These days some phones have about 8 GB of memory. You could fit in 16,000 Palm Pilots in that memory.

8. MiniDisc Player

Blue Sony Minidisc Player with Headphones

The Walkman was the coolest thing of the 1980s. After this, the MiniDisc player was released. It paved the way for portable 90s music devices. Sony’s MiniDisc player gave you a little over an hour of straight music. You got to dance and sing with your fun little contraption.

The Walkman just used cassettes. The CD player was compact discs. In the middle the MiniDisc player threw in a little extra fun. This little trend didn’t last long. Sony killed it off in 2013.

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9. Nintendo 64

Nintendo 64 on top of tv with Mario on the screen

The Nintendo made its mark, but the Nintendo 64 was super cool. It was way ahead of its competitors for that time. They had a 64-bit console next to the Sega and Sony’s 32-bit consoles. Its Super Mario game brought 3D gaming to the world.

It also used the analog stick as its main control. In the late 1990s, this system was the king for gaming. N64 is a system that started many tech trends and brought gaming to another level.

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10. Car Phones

business man driving with a car phone in the 90s

The handheld cell phone has come far from its days of the bulky car phone. You felt pretty cool to have that big bag phone in your car. You could call friends from the road. The calls came with a pretty premium price tag, but it was too cool to care.

Car phones existed before this decade, but this was their mobile time to shine. By the end of the 90s, the car phone wasn’t as bulky. It was still a block, but you could take it in places without dragging a large bag with you.

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11. Floppy Discs

floppy discs

Floppy discs were easy to lose and easy to break. There wasn’t Google Drive or a thumb drive back in those days. You had to store everything you had on this little disc. Sadly, they didn’t handle much memory so your photos couldn’t last long.

Once you threw this disc in the back of drawer, it was probably gone forever. They were perfect for that time because they gave us a way to get information from one computer to another computer.

12. The Internet opened us to the good, the bad and ugly

Back in the 1990s, you had to use your home landline to go online and ‘surf the Web’. When you wanted to send an email or look at whatever they called memes back then, no one could use the home phone. 

You may also have used Netscape

Source: Imgur

This charming beast made you feel like you were actually charting unknown waters. Back in the 90s, no one apart from Bill Gates knew what the Internet really was (be honest, you didn’t) and Netscape seemed suitably exploration themed.

Then, Internet Explorer came along and became the browser everyone used

Remember, Google wasn’t even launched until 1997, and was nothing like it is today. Netscape was trampled into the dust, but for a time, it seemed like you were riding the seas of the future, or something like that.

Images that could be downloaded took a seriously huge amount of time. And anyone who lived in the 90s will remember that agonising wait as the image ‘loaded down’ from the top of the picture to the bottom. It was painful. 

Oh, and we can’t forget dial-up

Right now, if your Google page doesn’t flash up as soon as you turn on your computer, something is very wrong.

Back in the 90s, you had to listen to a very strange sound, a mixture of bells and tortured crackling. Sure, it made you excited to think you were connecting with this amazing online system, but it was weird, and excruciatingly slow.

And right now, over 20 years later, we get stressed at the slightest ‘lag’ in speed when trying to log on. 

13. Photo developers used to exist, really

Grab your phone and you can take a photo anywhere, any time. The results are visible in seconds. Oh, and you can share the photo with pretty much anyone you want.

In fact, you can stick the photo on some social media ‘channel’ and have thousands of people telling you how great you look.

In the 90s you had to take your film (yes, actual film) down to the developer and wait for them to develop your photos for you. There was no delete, no instant sharing. And if we had known the truth, that instant photos and huge amounts of storage were just around the corner, we would have probably cried. 

Taking pictures back then was all about getting a good shot. It wasn’t about shooting 10 photos and choosing the best one. You got to see the photo when it was developed. Yes, that was life back in the 90s.

14. VCRs rule the world (and the school classroom)

This part may depress you a little.

Remember when your class at school had to watch a TV show to learn more about a topic? To make the whole thing happen the teacher (or even more excitingly, a class ‘technician’) had to wheel in the TV trolley.

When the trolley was wheeled in and in the right place in the classroom (there was always a designated spot) the teacher could then insert a video tape into the VCR (or the slot on the TV if it was one of those new ‘combination TV and VCR’ wonders) and you could then watch your half hour show on scratchy video.

That was about as 90s as school got. 

15. TVs were huge in the 90s

Literally.

So when you watched an educational show back then there had to be a ten-page risk assessment before the thing could be turned on. If you were lucky, the cassette was new when the show was recorded, so the quality wasn’t too bad.

And remember the ‘pause’ button? The still image wasn’t exactly 4K.

It’s a blast to look back on advances in electronics throughout the decades. These days our wild graphics look like real life and our tiny computers contain the knowledge of the world. It’s a lesson to remember that we’re always evolving. The next decade may bring wild changes to technology.

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What was your favourite tech trend of the 90s? Be sure to let us know in the comments below!